16 Affordable Kitchen Upgrades That Make a Huge Difference

Sometimes the biggest impact on a room can stem from the smallest changes. Read these tips to freshen the look of your kitchen, without the headache of a big remodel. These projects take a few hours, some take a weekend.

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wooden kitchen cabinets and sinkShutterstock / Ventura

Pick Out Some Under-Cabinet Lighting

You’ve heard about overhead lighting, but adding new task lighting in the form of under-cabinet lights is also a worthy project. Under-cabinet lighting doesn’t have to be expensive! LED ropes, for example, are highly affordable and easy to install. While it adds a new dimension to your kitchen, it also highlights dust and dirt, so keep your counters clean.

kitchen cabinet hardwareShutterstock / Tom Gowanlock

Switch Out the Hardware

One way to update the kitchen without spending a lot of money is switching out the cabinet hardware. This project can be done in one day and can help tie together the look of a room. For the best way to install the hardware, check out these tips.

grey kitchen cabinetsShutterstock / Archiviz

Change the Cabinet Color

Gray has become the go-to neutral, for good reason. Depending on the shade it fits well into most home color schemes. The color also helps to hide any fingerprints or food splashes.

grey and white kitchen with marble islandShutterstock / David Papazian

Install a New Island Countertop

If you don’t have the money to switch out all the countertops in your kitchen, focus on the island. By changing the island countertop a new-look can be tested in a small way.

two small wooden planters with plantsShutterstock / Sureerat Chuarchoom

Build an Herb Garden

Freshen up your kitchen by bringing the outdoors in with a new hanging herb garden. This project is a good one to build in the late winter/early spring so you can transplant the herbs outside when the growing season starts and make these fresh, herby recipes. Herbs need a lot of sunlight, so make sure the hanging garden is placed near a sunny window.

marble vinyl tiles flooringShutterstock / Apple_Foto

Replace Old Flooring With Vinyl Tiles

Flooring is often an expensive project because of the materials used and labor required, but today there are many options for inexpensive flooring projects. If your kitchen has decades-old linoleum, it’s time for a redo. Explore vinyl tile styles and colors to find something you like. Today’s vinyl tiles are affordable, very easy to install, and can even mimic the properties of other, more expensive surfaces for a high-end look.

kitchen counter with wood shelves and white backsplashShutterstock / United Photo

Update or Add a Tile Backsplash

Tile adds interesting texture, color, and style to any kitchen. Plus, tiling a backsplash is a very DIY-friendly project. Here are tips on installing a subway tile backsplash and a mosaic tile backsplash.

chrome kitchen sink Shutterstock / Torsak Thammachote

Install a New Sink

The kitchen sink is used every day and can get worn and tired-looking before other elements in the kitchen. Replace the sink to give your kitchen a boost. To make sure the installation goes smoothly, avoid these pitfalls. Then learn how to clean it right, because it can get really, really dirty.

corner unit of an expandable shelving unit Shutterstock ID 438485656Shutterstock / Raisa Suprun

Install Expandable Shelves in Cabinets

Expandable or pullout shelves are an easy way to add extra room to your kitchen without changing anything else. This is a relatively small project and you can typically find a very good pullout shelf accessory for around $50—or you can make your own.

running kitchen faucetShutterstock / Maggee

Replace the Faucet

If you replace the kitchen sink, you’ll likely want to replace the faucet as well. Another benefit of updating the faucet is it may save water. When choosing a faucet there are a few things to consider, in addition to style. Make sure it aligns with the sink-hole pattern and your family’s lifestyle.

lighting fixturesShutterstock / Vladeep

Update the Lighting

A statement light fixture can change the whole look and feel of your kitchen. Find something that doesn’t look out of place, but also doesn’t look like the light in every other kitchen on the block. Then, carefully choose the right bulb(s) to cast warm or cool light, as you prefer. For guidance on light installation projects, check out these tips.

kitchen countertopsShutterstock / Studiodin

Resurface the Countertops

Did you know that you can resurface your countertops? You can! It’s no more difficult than a painting project, so basic tools and skills are all you need. Follow the step-by-step instructions, then read up on our tips to keep your counters clutter-free.

bowl of fruit in wicker basketShutterstock / Thomas Filke

Create a Rustic Produce Basket

Sometimes all that’s needed to spruce up a space is organization. This creative way to store fruits and vegetables is inexpensive and attractive. It’s also a bonus that this project will free up valuable counter space. Check out our top picks for more such genius fruit storage ideas.

woman cleaning kitchen counterShutterstock / EBS Professional

Remove Countertop Stains

Maybe all your kitchen really needs is a good cleaning. Depending on the surface, and the stain, some elbow grease may be needed. These tips on stain removal can help make your countertops look like new.

applying varnish on woodShutterstock / Fotokostic

Strip Away Old Paint and Redo Your Cabinets

Many older kitchens are weighed down by poor cabinet surfaces that have been scratched, stained, and worn down over the years. But a weekend project can transform them at low cost if you are willing to work at it. Sand down the old paint or stain on those cabinets and see what lies beneath. If the wood has a rich grain, restore it and preserve it with a varnish. If you prefer to paint, then choose a color (lighter pastels are the latest trend) that goes with your walls and appliances. You will be amazed at how different your kitchen will look with new cabinets.

white kitchen cabinets and island with pink flowersShutterstock / Photographee

Turn Dated Countertops Into Cutting Boards

Countertops tend to show their age, especially if they are an outdated color or worn out material. Countertops are a tough sell for a cheap kitchen upgrade because new materials tend to be very expensive. An affordable option you should consider is taking off a section of old counter (preferably the worst part) and installing butcher block or other cutting board-style material instead. This adds new functionality to the kitchen and provides a clean, minimalist look.

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